Wednesday, 12 April 2017 04:32

Behind the scenes with Broncos’ billet families

Written by  Andrea Carol
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Bronco Billet families change gears in the kitchen to support their adopted Broncos. Jonah, Anaiah and Caleb Stechyshyn adore their Billet Brother, Aleksi Heponiemi Bronco Billet families change gears in the kitchen to support their adopted Broncos. Jonah, Anaiah and Caleb Stechyshyn adore their Billet Brother, Aleksi Heponiemi Andrea Carol

In round two of the WHL play-offs, the pressure is on to win the most sought after trophy in major junior hockey. 

It’s nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat excitement and the fans are hoping for a timely and glorious win for the lauded, Swift Current Broncos. Glancing across the arena, sparkles of the Memorial Cup lust can be seen dancing in the eyes of players and fans.
Behind the scenes and every young man on the ice, stands a strong, supportive and loving billet family.
The pressure these young men face is immeasurable during play-off season and their success on the ice is partially due to their success in their local family.
Billet mom Charmaine Westbury shed a few tears.
“Never in my life would I have ever thought these kids would mean as much to me as they do. This is their safe place and I am their person,” she says. “It’s really important that the players have a safe home to come to.”
During the play-offs the billet families lives don’t change much, but the players’ schedules and appetites sure do.
“My priority is to make sure they are fed. Food is fuel and hugely important. There is a lot of stress and downtime right now so my house is a little quieter,” said Westbury.
“Though, I am getting the special food requests right now. Pretty much whatever they want, they can have,” she added.
Cindy Stechyshyn, billet mom to Aleksi Heponiemi said, “If I had to give you one word about being a Bronco family, I’d say it’s amazing. It’s a fantastic experience being able to open our home.”
The Stechyshyn’s family of five are dedicated home Bronco Game supporters, but with the play-offs here, they took it up a notch and brought the family to game seven in Moose Jaw. 
In the family’s front yard, a lit Bronco sign hangs in a hockey net cheering on the local team and of course, the sixth family member, Aleksi.
Increased appetite during playoffs seems to be a common thread with the billet homes.
“I cook more consistently and bigger quantities now. Aleksi doesn’t have a favourite — eats everything I make — doesn’t complain like my kids. He has mentioned that I will have to give his mom my lasagna recipe so that might be his favourite,” Cindy said.
Aleksi is the top scoring rookie in the “Dub” (WHL) this year on-ice and in the heart of seven-year-old Anaiah Stechyshyn.
“He plays ping pong, plays basketball, goes scootering (and) shoots pucks with me,” she said with a contagious grin. “He’s kind of my best brother because he doesn’t fight with me.”
Laughter erupted in the room when she awarded Aleksi the ‘top brother’ rank in her house.
Aleksi, sat at the island in the kitchen with Anaiah on his lap.
“The best part of having a billet Mom and Dad  (and) brothers and sisters is probably for me, the playing,” says Aleksi. “Playing ping pong and doing everything together. All the food and all the lovely things. It’s really good. And also, all Cindy does for me. It’s been awesome.”
Time spent with Bronco billet families for players such as Aleksi Heponiemi, Ryan Graham and Max Lajoie is a cornerstone to growth and development for these young developing men, athletes and possibly future NHL players.
Playoffs have everyone in their homes buzzing with excitement, but behind the closed doors these families make sure the guys have a safe, supportive, quiet place to recharge. 
Want to be a Bronco Billet Family? Check it out.

Read 1447 times Last modified on Wednesday, 12 April 2017 09:12

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